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Haiku In The News: Reality In Riyadh

A Saudi woman walks past vehicles stopping at a traffic light in Riyadh, where there is a government ban on women driving.
Fayez Nureldine
AFP/Getty Images
A Saudi woman walks past vehicles stopping at a traffic light in Riyadh, where there is a government ban on women driving.

Poetry is important. And the hope for this standing feature of The Protojournalist is that by searching for a poetic nugget in the constant rush of news we can slow down for a moment and contemplate what the news story really means.

Like finding a lovely pebble in a mountain stream. Or a dropped earring on a crowded sidewalk.

Haiku in the News — you can find other examples here — is not designed to be a trivial thing.

Gray Lady Poems

For a while now, The New York Times has been doing its own version of haiku in the news — using a computer program to highlight 17-syllable samplings in its own journalistic prose. Some work as haiku; some don't.

Here is an example from a recent story on the Pakistani practice of donating sacrificial animal hides to charities:

In previous years,

People have been killed in gun

Battles over hides.

"How does our algorithm work?" writes Jacob Harris, the newspaper's senior software architect. "It periodically checks the New York Times home page for newly published articles. Then it scans each sentence looking for potential haikus by using an electronic dictionary containing syllable counts."

By Humans, For Humans

The NPR version, on the other hand, is human-based. We depend on people — using real eyes and real ears and real sensibilities — to point out poesy overlooked in the 24/7 information onslaught.

Today's haiku comes from Philippe Monfiston, 30, of Monroe, N.Y., who listens to member station WNYC. Philippe unearthed this three-line treasure on NPR's website — in our own backyard.

Yesterday there were

Lots of police cars, so I

Didn't take the risk.

-- A woman who has driven a car in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, despite a government ban on women driving, according to a recent Reuters report.


(If you find examples of Haiku in the News, please send them to: You could win a Protojournalist Prizepak.)

The Protojournalist: A sandbox for reportorial innovation. @NPRtpj

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

Linton Weeks joined NPR in the summer of 2008, as its national correspondent for Digital News. He immediately hit the campaign trail, covering the Democratic and Republican National Conventions; fact-checking the debates; and exploring the candidates, the issues and the electorate.